Verner Panton (13 Feb 1926 – 5 Sept 1998) is considered one of Denmark’s most influential 20th-century furniture and interior designers. He broke from the craft-based traditions of Scandinavian furniture-making and experimented with new materials and concepts. His work has become instantly recognisable and has influenced many of today’s designers.
But for one of Denmark’s most celebrated designers Verner Panton spent little time in Denmark; and many most of his celebrated works were realised abroad.
The furnishing of the Spiegel Publishing HQ, Hamburg in 1969 counts amongst the most outstanding examples of Panton’s interior design projects and is one of the few that still exist (at least in part)
For the famous news magazine, Panton designed the entrance area with courtyard and lobby, the canteen and the bar areas, the swimming pool for the employees in the basement of the building, the rooms for the editorial conferences and the lounges, as well as the colour schemes for the hallways of the administration or editorial high rise buildings.
The “decorative extravaganzas” were described as an amalgamation of “geometry and color, murals, glass and glimmering light”
The colour schemes became a major design element, providing Panton’s typical fusion of room design.
All designs were his own – lamps, textiles and wall claddings, only the furniture had to be ordered from Knoll International according to his contracts.
With its well considered confusion of colour, materials and forms, the Spiegel building can be considered together with his 1970 Visiona 2 installation as representing the zenith of Verner Panton’s work as an interior designer.
Although Panton wrote that ‘colour is more important than form’ he did not ignore the importance of form. His passion for experimentation led him to use form as the means to suggest new ways to enhance living space.
“Panton was a modest man who was crazy about design.” Panton himself once said, “The main purpose of my work is to provoke people into using their imagination and make their surroundings more exciting.”
The Old Spiegel Headquarters, Hamburg
In January, 1969 the Spiegel publishing company and Spiegel editorial staff entered in a new Hamburg company headquarters ( the 3rd HQ in its history ).
The local architect Werner Kallmorgen had planned the glass high rise with his twelve floors and built it up corner Ost-West-Straße/Brandstwiete. For the interior arrangement of the building the choice struck on Danish architect Verner Panton.
At that time Spiegel-publishing company manager Hans Detlev Becker gave the order to fill the cold cover inside with warmth.
The “decorative extravaganzas” as an amalgamation of “geometry and color, murals, glass and glimmering light”, as documented in the “Spiegel’s” internal newsletter from February 3, 1969. “The lifts travel between the basement and roof along the company’s own vertical, water-proof rainbow,” described the aforementioned internal newsletter.
Common areas, hallways, conference rooms, waiting areas, the cafeteria and snack bar and the swimming pool in the basement were decorated with a veritable fireworks of colors and shapes.
The designer received unequivocal instructions, as the “Spiegel” did “not want any kind of experimentation here as we are on the contrary bound to probity and sobriety in the building’s design,” as stated in the minutes from a meeting between Becker and Panton
The original layout comprised ten of the twelve stories, each with its own color, while the executive stories remained closed off.
Each floor was given a specific colour scheme –
Editorial floor – a variety of cool colours;
Administration floor – yellow/orange;
Conference rooms – lilac;
Bar – red;
Canteen – orange/red/violet
Furniture: chosen by Panton
canteen – wire chairs by Harry Bertoia;
conference rooms – chairs by Eero Saarinen;
lobby – wire grid armchairs by Warren Platner
For the floors housing the editorial desks, Panton had somewhat cooler colors in mind, while the administration floors were steeped in warm tones.
Central elements in the interior design were the so-called “Spiegel dashboards”, plastic panel-modules, for the most parted fitted with indirect lighting, which were installed on the walls and ceiling of the lobby, as well as the boundary walls in the entrance courtyard.
When design experts today swarm over the “Spiegel Cafeteria” as a design icon or “a masterpiece of design history”, one easily forgets that it was the remainder of an extensive design concept and a place where “Spiegel” editors and employees were rather reluctant to spend their lunch breaks at the time.
Till the tenth floor the halls were stroked colorfully – every floor in another tone of the colour palette from orange, red and violet up to blue.
“Tone in tone” to covers and walls carpet was selected and was laid out. When it was getting dark and the office doors were open, a unique play of colours could be observed from the outside.
The aim of the refurbishment was to use design to motivate employees, to encourage them to relax in the canteen, staff swimming pool and in the bar, and to stimulate their concentration while working.
How many companies today would install a swimming pool for their employees ?
Panton also designed a swimming pool for the employees. This interior is dark, but charged with coloured light that reflected upon the moving surface of the water. Swimming here would have been a psychedelic experience, like swimming in light
The Panton color concept was a basic design element that contributed significantly to the fusion of spatial dimensions.
While the swimming pool area was destroyed soon afterwards by a fire and the entry and lobby saw major redesign in the 90s, the canteen has so far remained in the original version and today represents a unique and valuable historic document.
The canteen was visible from the outside: The countless orange Flowerpot-lights which were hung in different lengths. Metal twisted chairs with red hassocks. Round tables with orange, pink and red spotted tabletops. Walls and covers completely dresses up with lined up, square Spiegel lights which also can be found in the entrance hall and swimming pool.
The space resembled more like an avant-garde restaurant than a company canteen.
Before their renovation in summer, 1998 the canteen and snack bar were put under Conservation of Monuments and historic buildings.
The New Spiegel HQ
In October 2011, Spiegel Publishing Group, whose stable includes Germany’s most important news magazine Der Spiegel, moved its staff into its new publishing Headquarters house in Hamburg’s Hafen City development (a prominent location in the inner harbor of Hamburg).
The building connects old Hamburg with the new urban quarter of HafenCity ( Europe’s biggest urban development project ) and creates a vibrant urban space with squares and recreational spaces along the Elbe River
It combined its Magazine editorial business together with its Spiegel Online and Spiegel TV which had been situated at other locations in the city. So now the three divisions are consolidated into the one building – the new Spiegel Headquarters rises from a red tile base, above which floats a bright, transparent building volume of glass, steel and concrete
The new Spiegel headquarters complex was designed by Henning Larsen Architects of Copenhagen ( who won the 2007 design competition) , and offers a clear focus on contact points, meeting places and communication.
Larsen, was a contemporary of Panton, working with Arne Jacobsen at the beginning of the 1950s and then moved on to design the Saudi-Arabia’s Foreign Ministry in Riyadh as well as the “Silberlaube” at the Freie Universität in Berlin. His works also include the Carlsberg Glyptothek and the Royal Danish Opera House.
The Spiegel HQ houses 1,100 employees, with bright, transparent design to support work processes in the editorial offices, documentary department and publishing division. Individual floors are connected by stairs and footbridges rising across the central atrium space. A large central window creates an active dialog between the activities of the media group and city life.
The fifth floor contains a café inspired by Panton’s interior design for the earlier 1969 headquarters.
The “new snack bar” on the 5th floor has “elements of the old – albeit more transparent, roomier and with wonderful views”
The original red pop art environment creates an evocative gathering point for employees. From the outside, it stands out as a red-orange field in the façade facing the city. The colors are part of the company’s identity and have been re-used in several places throughout the building.
From the Interior Designers – Ippolito Fleitz Group ……….. “The building’s famous canteen was designed in 1969 by Verner Panton and has since been placed under heritage protection. This inheritance represented a particular challenge. Our deliberations began with a question: could we integrate Verner Panton’s iconic facility into a new concept ? After careful consideration we decided against adopting the facility.”
“One factor which spoke against redeployment was the polygonal format of the new building, where Panton’s square-based modular concept would inevitably lead to virtually uncontrollable spatial remnants. Furthermore, the new building offers little in the way of large, continuous walls which are crucial to the Panton concept.
“The old building had three separate, compact spaces which Panton enlivened with the dynamic forms and colours of his ceiling topography. The new space, however, covers a large area and gives a strong horizontal impression. But above all it seemed logical to us to complement the new architecture of the building with contemporary, future-oriented interior design – exactly what Panton’s facility once was for the previous building”
Museum of Arts and Crafts Hamburg / Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe
The buildings by Werner Kallmorgen remain in place, albeit empty, their re-use remains uncertain. Although renovation would be conceivable, the area is subject to heavy traffic and resultant noise, thus – although much-needed – ruling out a conversion into apartments.
Senator for Cultural Affairs Karin von Welck, had asserted that this cultural artifact belonging to Hamburg should not be put onto the international design and auction market but should remain in the Hanseatic town.
The Spiegel Publishing Group ensured that the majority of the historic interiors were preserved by donating them to the Museum of Arts and Crafts ( Kunst und Gewerbe) Hamburg.
The canteen of the Spiegel House which was for 42 years a central meeting place and cultural place for all the Spiegel employees will be recreated at the Museum in 2012.
However the other interior of the offices, conference rooms, waiting areas with green perfectly circular Flokati rugs to Fun Shell-pendulum lights and with green material dressed up foamed plastic stalactites, as well as the wall disguising and ceiling panels from specially for this work developed so-called Spiegel lights in entrance hall and swimming-pool are now gone forever.
But Panton’s work for Spiegel isn’t about the colours and shapes. It wasn’t about psychedelia. It was always about the psychological effects of colour on the human organism.
That’s why the Spiegel workers used to open their office doors to let the colour flow from the corridors into their monotone offices. No one works well in a white cell!
It is about the complete work. It’s a composition. It would have better to send the whole lot to the Museum – a more honourable and respectful end to one of the greatest chapters in German interior design. There it would at least be amongst people who care for it, appreciate it and understand it.
Yet the connection between a specific architectural piece and a particular room with a particular purpose has been destroyed forever.
Hamburg art historian Hermann Hipp outlined – in a different context – a platonic notion of monuments, which at best expresses interest in shapes and colors, but not original textures, surfaces and contexts. We are thus left with mere replacements, arranged in a new way.
But what will happen to the rest of the items ? Will they will soon be making their way around the world as part of design exhibitions, remains unclear.
About Verner Panton
Panton was a master of the fluid, futuristic style of 1960s design which introduced the Pop aesthetic to furniture and interiors.
He designed furniture and interior designs that exemplify the 1960s Space Age look.
With his visionary, colorful home furnishings, Danish designer Verner Panton sought ways to fashion a stylistically uniform, imaginative interior.
Panton, credited for revolutionizing design in his heyday with a unique brand of pop aesthetics involving vibrant hues and shapes, has produced a wide-ranging repertoire ranging from furniture to textiles to lighting.
By the early sixties, he had already helped establish a color spectrum that dominated home design until the mid seventies
Although much of his work appears fantastical, he was a pioneer in the use of new materials such as plastic.
He created innovative and futuristic designs in a variety of materials, and in vibrant and exotic colours.
Verner Panton was a master of the fluid, futuristic style of 1960s design which introduced the Pop aesthetic to furniture and interiors.
During the ‘Beat’ years of the mid-1950s, young European artists and writers bought battered old camper vans to travel across the continent. One of the oddest-looking of these vans was the Volkswagen belonging to Verner Panton, a young Danish architect, who had customised it into a mobile studio.
Every few months, Panton set off from Copenhagen in the Volkswagen for a trek across Europe dropping in on fellow designers as well as any manufacturers or distributors which he hoped would buy his work.
Famed like the rest of Scandinavia for its organic modernist designs, Denmark was then at the centre of the contemporary design scene. Yet Verner Panton’s style could not have been more different from the soft, naturalistic forms and materials which were the hallmarks of Danish modernism.
He knew that he would have to look further afield to win acceptance for his work.
Panton had close links with many of the most important Danish designers of that era. Pøul Henningsen, the lighting designer, had taught him at Copenhagen’s Royal Academy of Art.
After graduating, he had worked for Denmark’s architectural grandee, Arne Jacobsen.
Panton also enjoyed a close friendship with designer-craftsman, Hans Wegner. But whereas Wegner was famed for his skill at modernising classic Danish teak chairs, Panton’s passion lay in experiments with plastics and other rapidly advancing man-made materials to create vibrant colours in the geometric forms of Pop Art.
In Denmark after the Second World War he had the opportunity to work with new materials and technologies that had been developed during the war. In response to this he began his own development of designs that broke from traditional Danish crafted furniture.
Although he admired the expertise and techniques of prominent Danish designers, his style and ideas were in complete contrast.
Design in the 1950s was generally functional and simple. His designs, based on both geometric and organic shapes, incorporated function with more challenging forms.
He became well known for his innovative architectural proposals, including a collapsible house (1955), the Cardboard House and the Plastic House (1960).
Near the end of the 1950s, his chair designs became more and more unconventional, with no legs or discernible back.
In 1960 Panton was the designer of the very first single-form injection-moulded plastic chair. The Stacking chair or S chair, which would become his most famous and mass-produced design.
Panton was famous for telling people not to change the design, instead he would tell them to ‘adapt the manufacturing’.
This desire to push the boundaries of how products were produced led Panton to make his most iconic design – the eponymously named Panton Chair. A pioneering piece of engineering which created the first chair designed completely from a single piece of plastic.
Panton himself once said, “The main purpose of my work is to provoke people into using their imagination and make their surroundings more exciting.”
And he has certainly left his mark. Going back to basics with common geometrical shapes, the innovative designer deviated from traditions to create timeless works which possess a certain Ouerve that still charms artgoers and design fans alike.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Panton experimented with designing entire environments: psychedelic interiors that were an ensemble of curvaceous furniture, upholstered walls and near-psychedelic lighting effects.
Panton’s integrated approach to design is best illustrated in his work for various restaurants, hotels and exhibitions. In these installations the importance of the whole experience was paramount and he considered the design of furniture, lighting, textiles and the relationship between the products, colour and the user as a complete package.
He spent a great deal of his time designing “whole interiors” ( alla Arne Jacobsen) – from his early renovation of the Astoria Hotel in Trondheim (1960) to the interiors of the Speigel Verlagshaus in Hamburg (above, 1969) – all the while, he was learning more about colour, manufacturing and new materials.
By fusing the elements of a room—floor, walls, ceiling, furnishings, lighting, textiles, wall panels made of enamel or plastic—into a unified “Gesamtkunstwerk“, Panton’s interior installations have attained legendary status.
Komingen Inn, Funen, Denmark 1958
Verner Panton’s first major interior design assignment was the extension of the Komigen inn on the Langesø estate on Funen which his father had leased. The inn needed extending to create space for 700 guests, and it was Verner Panton’s job to act as architect and designer for the work.
Most of the furniture, lighting and textiles were designed by Verner Panton. It represented his first complete design project – an experience in five tones of red.
The first Cone Chairs were supplied for the Komigen inn
The inn attracted huge publicity and attention and became a commercial success. However, it existed for only 10 years or so, before being demolished.
The Astoria Hotel & Restaurant, Trondheim, Norway, by Verner Panton, 1960
Panton created a ‘total environment’ for the Astoria Hotel – with the walls, floors and ceilings were covered in an Op Art-inspired pattern in variations of the same colour.
He utilized circular patterns and cylindrical furniture.
The design of the Hotel and Restaurant Astoria in Trondheim included the entry area with the cloakroom, the day restaurant with the wintergarten, an evening restaurant with dance floor as well as a self-service restaurant. Verner Panton used the textile design Geometry I to IV for floors, walls and ceilings in order to give the room a uniform image
The chairs are various versions of the Panton Cone Chair and the Heart Cone Chair. The chairs grouped around the tables and the Topan lights work together to divide the large room into individual seating areas with an intimate note
The Varna Restaurant, ( aka Varna Palace) Århus, Denmark 1971
The original restaurant is a renowned, eye-popping marvel of color theory and artistic design.
The restaurant was situated in a renovated palatial building, itself built in 1909, in the Marselisborg forest of Denmark.
The architectural commission at the Varna restaurant in Arhus was for the interior design. … Fabrics from Mira-X were used by Panton to focus on proportions and connections, and using colour and shapes gave each room its unique dynamics.
In contrast to the primarily violet colour of the restaurant, Panton formed the Rotonde red. A central element in the so-called Red Hall were red foamed plastic balls which hung from the ceiling.
It has been claimed that this project possibly represented Panton’s most extensive design project. From the outset, Restaurant Varna became a cult venue in Aarhus, but Panton’s interiors existed for only ten years or so
The city of Århus eventually sold the restaurant to the men’s social club the Order of Odd Fellows. Though it has since been renovated you can see that a strong influence of Panton’s original design remains.
Visiona (s) Cologne Furniture Fair 1968 and 1970
From the end of the Sixties to the mid-Seventies the chemical company Bayer rented a pleasure boat during every Cologne furniture fair and had it transformed into a temporary showroom by a well-known contemporary designer. The main aim was to promote various synthetics products in connection with home furnishings.
Panton was commissioned twice ( 1968 and 1970) to design an exhibition for the chemical company Bayer. He showcased surreal organic interior home furnishings that consisted of vibrant colors
His presentations were titled ‘Visiona’.
The aim of the project was to promote the fabric ‘Dralon’. Bayer wanted to show the multiple possibilities offered by the new textile.
For this an exhibition ship was fitted out – Visiona 0 – and a length of quayside adorned with round, bright discs made of dralon.
Visiona 2 1970
Panton consciously reacted against the restrictions of Euclidean geometry, dissolving the floor, walls and ceiling into an amorphous, psychedelic space. The effect resembles a zero-gravity environment and would indeed make an ideal interior on a space ship with astronauts bouncing around during downtime, as suggested in publicity shots
The 1970 ‘Visona 2′ exhibition showed the Fantasy Landscape which was created in this environment.
The resulting room installation consisting of vibrant colours and organic forms is one of the principal highlights of Panton’s work. In terms of design history this installation is regarded as one of the major spatial designs of the second half of the twentieth century.
The creative fireworks which Panton lit with his studio within a preparation time of only a few months for ‘Visiona 2′ is expressed not only in the highly diversified room designs in the exhibition ship, but also in the wide range of furniture, lighting, wall coverings and textiles developed specially for this presentation.
Some of these were adapted and went into mass production later.
During his career, he created innovative, funky and futuristic designs in a variety of materials, especially plastics, and in vibrant and exotic colors.
His passion for bright colours and geometric patterns manifested itself in an extensive range of textile designs.
He most famously started working with Swiss textiles manufacturer Mira-X in 1969. Mira-X shared Panton’s desire to create integrated environments with the use of textiles
Panton’s first collection in 1969, Mira-X Set, included two qualities of furnishing fabric, a large selection of single colour carpets and curtain fabrics.
This collection enabled Panton to develop his theories on colour and use his rather complicated combinations of colours to great effect. The patterns consisted of eight colours graded to a further eight levels of brightness and incorporated five geometric motifs which were graded also to eight levels. Each design was produced in three sizes and the colours were combined in either a single design or a single colour broken down into eight levels of brightness.
The properties of the cotton velour material further added to the diversity of colour. The designs were printed motifs and were independent of the material’s structure
Tom Dixon (designer) has said of Verner …. “He made sure he never got stuck in the restrictive pigeonholes that constrain the rest of us. He never ended up as a textile designer or architect, because he was also a colour theorist and artist – he seemed just as happy doing interior décor or sculpture as he did working on lighting or chairs.”
Jasper Morrison (designer) said ……” Verner Panton’s interiors today, we are amazed by the colour and the vision of a truly original mind. Just imagine the impact his work had when it was first seen and you have some idea of the scale of his achievement.”
1926 Born in Gamtofte on the island of Fünen, Denmark to innkeeper parents. ( 13 February, 1926 )
It was here that Verner Panton spent his childhood as the oldest of two brothers, from the age of 10 and following his parents’ divorce with three half-brothers. His mother left Funen with Verner’s younger brother to live on the island of Lolland.
As a child he longed to become a artist, but showed little talent for painting or drawing. Nothing in Verner Panton’s childhood suggested that he might become a designer.
Verner Panton originally wanted to be an artist, but his father was against this so, as a compromise, Verner Panton decided to become an architect and train at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture in Copenhagen. However, before commencing his architectural training he started his working life as a traditional tradesman, as a bricklayer.
1944-47 Moves to Odense, also on Fünen, to enrol at the Technical College. Here he studies architectural engineering.
1944-1945 Military service in Odense. ( Becomes involved with the Danish resistance against the German occupation ) Towards the end of World War II, he spent several months in hiding after a cache of weapons was found in his room
1947 -51 Starts an architecture degree at Copenhagen’s Royal Academy of Arts.
1950 Marriage to Tove Kemp (the step-daughter of designer Poul Henningsen) The marriage is short-lived though Panton’s relationship with Henningsen was to be much more long-lasting
1950-1952 Works as an assistant to the architect, Arne Jacobsen where he worked as an apprentice. To begin with he was given the dullest of tasks producing technical drawings, and then moved on to sketching and furniture ( Ant chair) and model work.
About his time with Arne Jacobsen, Verner Panton said: “I have never learned as much from anyone as I did from Arne Jacobsen. He taught me to be confident in my own work and to never give up.”
After a few short years he realized that the constraints of an established firm restricted him from expressing his creative vision
1953 After his time with Arne Jacobsen, Verner Panton bought a half share in a VW camper van. The other half was owned by the architect Hans Ove Barfod. Together, they fitted out the camper with sleeping berths and a drawing office, and then set out to find out what Europe had to offer in 1953.
The two architects visited firms in Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy where they were met with goodwill and hospitality but failed to secure any commissions.
1954 After their first trip, Panton bought Barfod’s share in the camper and set off again. He immersed himself in the international design world and established many contacts with colleagues, manufacturers and dealers. This eventually ( much later) resulted in a large number of architectural projects and furniture designs
1955 He became well known for his innovative architectural proposals, including a Collapsible house (1955), the Cardboard House and the Plastic House (1960).
Through most of the 50′s Panton became very well know for his pioneering chair designs. Many with only two legs, some with no back. He began to push the limits of conventional wisdom in terms of furniture design.
1955 Fritz Hansen launches Panton’s first mass-produced pieces of furniture, the Tivoli Chair and Bachelor Chair.
1956 Panton participates in a furniture competition initiated by the WK/WKS group. Many of the models for his later series are based on these designs.
1957 Designs a self-assembly weekend home to be sold as a limited edition.
1958 Opening of Komigen restaurant, designed by Panton for his parents, is an instant hit, as is the Cone Chair he created for it.
1959 Start of the cooperation with the Danish firms of Plus-Linje (Cone Chair series furniture), Unika Væv (textiles) and Louis Poulsen (lighting). These designs attracted attention with their geometric forms.
1960 Develops first inflatable chair and designs the Astoria Hotel in Norway.
1960 Verner became the first designer to create plastic injection mold chairs.
1961 Panton’s furniture, textiles and lights published in Mobilia’s “Black Book”.
1962 In Teneriff he gets to know Marianne Pherson-Oertenheim. He resides in Cannes for a short time.
1963 Moves to Basel with Marianne Person-Oertenheim. He sets up a studio in Basel with a dozen employees and started taking on spectacular assignments. Begins collaboration with Herman Miller-Vitra in Basel
1963 Panton receives the International Design Award, USA (an award which he receives once more in 1986 and 1981).
1964 Flying Chairs and Shell Lamps create a furore at Cologne Furniture Fair.
1964 He marries Marianne in Basle
1965 Unveils S Chair (Model 275) , first cantilevered moulded plywood chair, for Thonet. Starts work on the Panton Chair with Herman Miller-Vitra launched in 1968.
1966 Daughter Carin Panton born
1967 Panton is awarded Denmark’s PH Prize
1967 The Danish design magazine Mobilia presents the Panton Chair to the public for the first time
1968 Design of the exhibition on the Dralon ship (later renamed Visiona 0) for Bayer on the occasion of the Cologne Furniture Fair.
1968 Panton is awarded Italy’s Eurodomus 2 prize.
1968 Design for the offices of the Spiegel publishing house.
1968 Panton receives the Medal of Austria’s Bauzentrum
1969 The Living Tower is presented at a joint exhibition with Charles Eames, Joe Colombo and others at the Louvre in Paris
1969 Spiegel headquarters completed.
1970 Redesign of restaurant Varna in Århaus
1970 Design of the Visiona 2 exhibition for Bayer on the occasion of the Cologne Furniture Fair, where the first Mira X collection is also on show
1972 1972 The Pantons move to a villa in Basle Binningen where he designs a room-high live-in sculpture
1973 Completes work on the interior of Grüner & Jahr’s offices in Hamburg.
1973 Panton is awarded Germany’s «Gute Form» prize
1978 VP Europa
1979 Panton receives Denmark’s Møbelprisen.
1979 At the international Swiss Furniture Fair in Basle a special exhibition Pantorama is presented in his honour
1981-1984 Panton receives Germany’s ‘Deutsche Auswahl’ prize five times.
1984 The circus building in Copenhagen is renovated on the basis of a colour design by Panton.
1984 He becomes a visiting professor at the Offenbach College of Design
1986 Panton receives Denmark’s Sadolin-Farve prize and Germany’s «Gute Form» award.
1990 Vitra puts the Panton Chair back into production.
1990 Famous designer colleagues to present their Hommage à Panton
1991 Panton is awarded Denmark’s Dansk Designgråd Årspris prize.
1992 He receives Norway’s design prize.
1994 IKEA produces Panton’s Vilbert Chair as the Panton revival takes off.
1995 VS Möbel Pantoflex
1995 Panton Chair appears on the cover of British Vogue.
1996 Panton designs a colour space installation “Farbräume” for Gallerie Littmann in Basle.
1997 Erco offices London
1998 For his life’s work the Queen of Denmark awards Panton the knight’s cross of the Dannebrog order.
1998 In the form of the Panto-Pop and the multi-functional Phantom furniture Innovation Randers produces modified re-editions of two designs originally developed for the Visiona 2 exhibition
1998 Verner Panton dies in Copenhagen on 5th Sept aged 72 ( 12 days before the opening of his Light and Colour retrospective at the Trapholtmuseum in Kolding, Denmark.)
2000 Verner Panton: Light and Colour opens at Vitra Design Museum, Weil-am-Rhein, and the Design Museum.
Verner Panton’s extraordinarily comprehensive and diverse oeuvre, to which the Vitra Design Museum now dedicates an extensive Retrospektive, is with justification regarded as a major contribution to the development of design in the second half of the twentieth century.
Although the dictionary defines ergonomics as ‘the study of the efficiency of persons in their working environment’ the term is often used more broadly to describe the way people interact with their living environment.
Verner Panton addressed this in many of his most innovative designs. He believed that a living environment should be less conventional to enable the user to interact in a variety of ways depending on his or her needs.
It was in the late 1950s with his work on the Cone Chair that Panton truly began to exercise his distinctive views on colour, form and the ways humans could interact with their environments.
Indeed, vibrant colours – red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue and violet – guided his designs and his rainbow palette became a trademark.
Panton was able to give an effect of richer colour by using particular fabrics such as velvet or special geometric patterns.
He used colour not only to create and affect mood, but also to project a unified spatial impression, sometimes bathing entire interiors in monochrome. He was also sensitive to the relationship between colour and lighting design since different lighting schemes affect the impact of colour.
With respect to colour alone, Panton is considered a trailblazer and in 1997, his lifelong fascination with it was captured in his booklet, Notes on Colour, with the pronouncement ‘Colour is more
important than form.’
Colour planning is of utmost importance … ” It is not enough to say that red is redandblue blue.I myself normallyworkwithparallel colours whose tones follow consecutively according to the order of the spectrum. In this way, I can control the character of the room in terms of warmth and coolness and thereby create the desired atmosphere.”
Author Nora Schmidt / Berlin
“Anything but nostalgic”
An interview with Marianne Panton and Rina Troxler, Verner Pantons longtime assistant
They worked alongside him for many years:
Marianne Panton was not just Verner Panton’s wife, she was also his manager and confidante for the major part of his creative phase.
Rina Troxler has now worked for the Panton family for over thirty years. She began working for Verner Panton in 1978 and after his death she systematically built up a comprehensive archive of his work together with Marianne Panton.
We met Verner Panton’s two companions in Basle for this fascinating and revealing interview.
Against all expectations the colour of your furnishings is relatively restrained, even if you do have lots of Panton furniture.
Marianne Panton: After Verner died I very quickly felt the need to leave the home we had shared together. It was much too big for me. In this new apartment I had to adjust for the first time to a future without Verner, and I didn’t know what this future would bring. The last thing I wanted to do was to begin painting the apartment, so I’ve been living here for almost ten years between white walls, but surrounded by Panton furniture and objects.
Rina Troxler: If Verner were to enter the room he would throw up his hands in horror and shout: “Frau Troxler, bring me some red paint!”
You spent a large part of your life living with Verner Panton here in Basle. Why didn’t he stay in Denmark? After all, in those days Scandinavian design was all the rage.
MP: That’s very simple. In Denmark we didn’t find any manufacturers who were prepared in those days to produce Verner’s idiosyncratic and visionary designs. It may sound surprising today, but in the early days it was a constant struggle.
After completing his training Verner Panton worked at the studio of Arne Jacobsen. How did the established designers of Danish modernism react to Verner Panton’s extravagance?
MP: Naturally some people reacted very negatively, but Arne Jacobsen was enthusiastic. He even travelled specially to Cologne in order to view the Visiona 2 exhibition. And until Verner’s death Hans J. Wegner was a very close friend.
Mrs Panton, you weren’t just Verner Panton’s wife and closest confidante, but to some extent also his manager.
MP: In particular at the beginning I took care of all the correspondence. I also went everywhere with Verner and took part in negotiations and so on. However, I didn’t get involved in his creative work in any way. Of course I was able to express my opinion, but he didn’t often listen to me.
RT: But that was the same with everybody. He always asked you what you thought about his designs, but when it came down to it he didn’t want to hear any objections. So when we thought that something was really going too far, we looked for other ways to talk him out of it.
MP: I remember very well when he worked on Visiona 0 and 2. When I saw his designs and models and the carpet patterns on the walls and floor, I thought to myself: “For heaven’s sake, this is going to be a scandal. After all, in those days beige and mustard yellow were the omnipresent colours. Fortunately my conservative objections were ignored, because when I saw the finished exhibition I thought it was fantastic.
It sounds a little as if the two of you were the ones who had your feet on the ground in the whole enterprise.
RT: Verner could be very impatient and short tempered, and then it was my main task to calm him down.
MP: Yes, he could be very undiplomatic. He then sometimes said: “I can’t work with people I don’t like.” I often had to encourage him to overcome his feelings and that could be a real strain. Of course his designs constantly met with resistance. Verner couldn’t stand it when people told him that his designs couldn’t be realised but then failed to offer him an alternative solution.
RT: Verner spent years looking for a producer for the Panton Chair, and after production of the chair finally began in 1967, he never again accepted the statement that “it can’t be done”.
Obviously he touched a chord with people. Was Verner Panton aware that the time was right for a change in style?
MP: It hadn’t been so long after the shock of the Second World War, and I believe that people were yearning for bright colours, but above all it Verner’s personal vision that was right for the era.
Was it then in the last analysis the cooperation with Vitra which brought the two of you to Basle?
MP: Well, it should first be mentioned that even for the Panton Chair we spent years looking for a manufacturer. Thanks to the Fehlbaum family and Vitra we were finally able to carry out this project successfully. In addition for other projects, we still had further contacts in France and Germany. It was therefore geographically very favourable for us to live here.
RT: In Germany companies at the time were much more ready to take risks when it came to design. A lot of energy and money was invested in developments which looked to the future, much more than was the case in Scandinavia.
Here in Basle you administer a very extensive archive of all of Verner Panton’s work. When did you begin to collect this material?
RT: Mrs Panton tried from the very beginning to collect everything that appeared, newspaper clippings, sketches and so on. Verner himself on the other hand always tended to put finished work behind him, because for him it belonged to the past. It was no longer of any interest, and he was already thinking about the next project. After his death we then began to build up the archive systematically.
When did you have the idea of opening the archive to the public in an online portal?
MP: The idea of publication came in a brainstorming session with ‘our’ producers on the one hand and Carin and her husband on the other.
RT: However, we started digitalising the archive years ago.
MP: After all, we’re familiar with all of Verner’s designs and know every sketch and prototype he made. This knowledge will be preserved in the online archive, which will be managed by my daughter Carin. A section of this archive will be open to the public, while a further part will be accessible only to researchers and the press, for example.
Wouldn’t it have been strange for a visionary like Verner Panton to see his designs being still produced, and people sitting on furniture which he designed back in the Sixties?
MP: Definitely. Verner may have been everything other than nostalgic, but he would have been very pleased that even in terms of contemporary design, his own creations are still regarded as modern and ‘in’.
RT: At the same time it shouldn’t be forgotten that thanks to new production technology and advanced materials, some of Verner’s designs can only today be produced in the way he originally envisaged. In those days technology often wasn’t sophisticated enough to keep up with Verner’s imagination. Let’s take the VP Globe. It was of course possible to produce the lamp at the time, but this new edition has turned out to be really perfect. Or the Panton Chair – it was never the intention for it to be elitist, but only in the new edition has it been possible to make the chair available at an affordable price.
In the Eighties things quietened down around Verner Panton, but then in the Nineties he was once more very much in demand, shortly before his death.
MP: Yes, when he made a speech at the architectural college in Aarhus his young audience responded with enthusiasm.
RT: Although it can be said that he wasn’t a first-class speaker. On the other hand he had a lot of charisma, a good sense of humour and was able to laugh about himself and his designs. This is what people liked about him.
MP: This appearance also resulted in the contact with the Trapholt Museum, where Verner held the last exhibition which he conceived himself. He died only a few days before it opened. Rina and I finally completed the exhibition and it was this task that helped me get over the initial shock of his death.
The opening was a wonderful farewell to Verner. All his friends were there and the atmosphere was a wonderful one.
Mrs Panton and Mrs Troxler, thank you very much for talking to us.